'My Wife's Gambling Is Ruining My Marriage, Should We End It?'

Here's how to deal with a partner who is struggling with a gambling addiction
"When is enough, enough?"
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"When is enough, enough?"

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‘Money, money, money can be funny in a rich man’s world’ Abba once sang, but it can also ruin relationships. Everyone has their own personal relationship with how they handle finances. You have people who are quite tight with money, then you have those who will splash out at any given opportunity.

And then there are people who have toxic relationships with money through addictions like gambling - something which is the case for Simon’s partner.

“When is enough, enough? I love my wife and have one amazing child and 17 years of marriage. We share a home and many of the same friends. Life is pretty good viewed through that lens,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“There are things that have happened in our relationship that makes keeping that focus difficult. Money is an issue.”
“My wife doesn’t call it gambling but how else can you explain hundreds of transactions to play bingo on your phone? She wastes money, lies about it when I ask why our bank balance doesn’t reflect our budget, then cries and apologises when she is confronted with the truth.”
Simon expresses that they’ve discussed this problem extensively but the issue is still occurring.
“For years now it has been a perennial problem. I love her so much, and it makes me feel like a villain for considering whether I have to break my vows and leave her.”
“I have tried everything I can to provide support and she just does everything the same. I resent her sometimes, then feel ashamed for being selfish. I feel like a hostage sometimes.
“When do I realise she’ll never outgrow the addictions or deal with the trauma? When is enough, enough?” Simon asks.
Clearly, Simon loves and cares about his wife but is at his wit’s end. What should he do?
Counselling Directory members Andrew Harvey and Lucy Cavendish are on hand to help Simon.

What would you say to this reader?

Harvey thinks this is a really challenging situation for both Simon and his wife.
“It sounds like, at times, your wife is able to connect with the true nature of her out-of-control gambling and to some degree, the damage it is doing. This might suggest an opportunity to explore her getting support to break free of this behaviour,” he says.
Cavendish believes both of the pair need praise and appreciation for making this a happy marriage. “You describe a world in which everything looks good. ‘Life is pretty good viewed through that lens’ is the key.
“However, what you are also letting me know is that you now need to see life as a full 360 place and that sounds tough. If you change the angle of the lens, underneath the happy family – I would suggest widening your focus (if we are to keep this lens metaphor going).”

When is enough, enough?

“Knowing when enough is enough is a difficult decision. What is important is to decide what enough is enough looks like, and the consequences of that, and sticking to it. With addiction, boundaries often break down, so it’s important to put some firm ones in. Being clear to your wife about this and why you need to have these boundaries is important, seeking agreement from her would be ideal,” Harvey says.
“For some people – the martyrs amongst us – there is no such thing as enough,” Cavendish adds.
“I have counselled many partners of addicts and part of their fear is that their addict will actually get sober (or whatever form of addiction they have).”
“I would do some reading on co-dependence and see what your part is in this. I don’t wish to sound harsh. It’s a desperate situation but getting yourself informed is a very healthy step toward your understanding of what might be enough for you.”

What practical advice would you give this reader?

According to Harvey, “it’s important that you look after yourself in relation to this situation, get support, friends, family, and others you may trust might be a good place to start.

“There are a number of organisations that offer support for both addicted gamblers and affected others. Counselling with someone that understands addiction might also be a good option for you, to have support and a space to explore the situation and ways forward.

“If you feel able to, being there to support your wife to seek recovery and make changes could be very helpful to her, and communicating to her your concern and desire to help at the same time as being clear around boundaries sends a clear but firm message to her, that help is available, but the gambling is not acceptable to you.

“The fact that your wife is, at times, able to see the harm of her gambling suggests she might be open to change, if she is open to it, explore with her sources of support, information and ways she might make some changes around her gambling.”

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Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK